Cold comfort for LTN critics
CRITICS of the plethora of traffic control proposals – Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), cycle lanes et al – tabled by Bath Council will have found scant comfort in the comments made by the council’s Sustainable Transport manager Nick Helps at a scrutiny panel meeting this week.
He told councillors that the roll-out of LTNs will not ‘cause chaos’ and that, anyway, drivers would adapt quickly to changes designed to end rat runs. He said LTNs would not be axed even if they were initially ‘disastrous’.
The council has had 28 requests for LTNs, which are typically considered in predominantly residential areas, where several streets are grouped and organised in a way to discourage rat-running.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of the £2.2m budget for liveable neighbourhoods will be spent on communications, Mr Helps confirmed.
Asked by a councillor to say what the council would do if it was found that an unintended consequence of an LTN was to generate more pollution on main roads, Mr Helps said there would be monitoring before and during a scheme. ‘If a scheme was an absolute disaster you could on day one cancel it, but I think it’s best to wait, because these things will settle down. Travel behaviour changes to adapt. The benefits are just huge. We should be forcing down the total level of vehicles – getting through-traffic down but also reducing residents’ dependency on cars for trips by improving options for walking, cycling, and public transport.’
A consultation on the broader liveable neighbourhoods strategy, he said, showed ‘massive support’ among 1,900 respondents for encouraging active travel, reducing the dominance of cars in busy residential areas, and reclaiming road space for public realm improvements. But, he added, there was concern that proposals could negatively impact disabled people and older people.’
‘People were worried about the effect of topography and how this could limit walking and cycling in Bath. People were concerned about families with young children and how the proposals would affect their daily travel needs. They were concerned about the cost of residents’ parking permits on low-income households. They were concerned about dedicated parking for electric vehicles reducing the availability of general parking. People were concerned about decanting traffic onto major roads, potential increases in congestion, and overall parking availability. It’s understandable that people have these concerns and we will seek to mitigate any adverse effects working with communities.’
Councillor Lisa O’Brien said that in some parts of the country, LTNs had obstructed emergency service vehicles and cost home carers valuable time, adding: ‘I’m at a loss to understand how you can eliminate these impacts on those groups of people who do need a car.’ Poorer residents living on London Road in Bath could get more traffic pushed off other roads.
Mr Helps replied: ‘Low traffic neighbourhoods aren’t about decanting traffic from one street to another – that wouldn’t that wouldn’t be a success. We want to take out through-traffic from residential areas and reduce the total number of vehicles.’ Schemes could use number plate recognition rather than bollards to control traffic flow, similar to a bus gate, allowing access for ambulances, bin collections, and disabled transport vehicles.